The long awaited food blog

People often ask me, “Which do you like better, Japanese or American food?”

I prefer Japanese food, obviously. And I’m not just saying that because I live here or think American food is horribly unhealthy and not-so-tasty. So much of Japanese food (or food easily found in Japan) is delicious.

So I hate milk. And most dairy. I don’t hate cheese, but it does not like me. I’m also not a fan of red meat–or any meat for that matter. I can eat seafood. I love fish and shrimp and oysters, OH MY. And while modern Japanese cuisine is full of fatty animal products and sugar and all that, it is relatively easier to find healthy options (or foods without all those things I hate) in Japan. I think. I at least feel healthier eating Japanese food than I do typical American food, but I’m not really sure what’s right anymore. Either way, I’d like to share some of the foods I’ve eaten while in Japan. To the best of my ability, I will describe these foods and grade them based on their deliciousness, etc.

1. Sushi. The picture below is of various fishes and fillings for a temakizushi (hand rolled sushi) session. Sushi is one of my favorite foods in Japan because it is filling, easily accessible, and freakin’ delicious. Sushi is popular all over the world now, but I promise you it tastes best where it all began in Japan.

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Here we have crab sticks, Japanese-style scrambled egg (tamagoyaki), tuna, octopus, sea urchin (uni), and so many other fishes I don’t remember!

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This spread was also for temakizushi, which is really easy to do at home and makes for a wonderful dinner party!

sushi and tempura

sushi and tempura

***Helpful tip: for the last time, sushi does not mean raw fish or fish at all. Sushi refers to the vinegared-rice used. Raw fish is called sashimi.

2. Sashimi. Actually, I might like sashimi more. All of the flavor and none of the white rice. This spread included the standard types of fish and the meat from that little crab/lobster thing (sorry I don’t remember his name). It was so fresh that his arms were still moving. Not going to lie, it was a little unsettling at first, but the tastiness made up for it.

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3. Noodle dishes. The first is udon. Udon is a noodle made from flour. It’s usually really thick, but thin varieties are also available. In my opinion, udon tastes the best with a soy sauce based soup, green onions, and a big slice of fried tofu. This is commonly referred to as kitsune udon (fox udon), and it looks like this:

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You can also have kitsune soba, which is a noodle made from buckwheat. It is also delicious, especially when followed by matcha dango, a sweet dessert made from sticky rice flour and matcha powder.

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Then we have ramen. Ramen is actually a Chinese dish, but has been made it’s own phenomenon in Japan. Ramen is super super famous, but it’s nothing like those 10 cent soup cups you can buy at the super market. It has a rich, fatty flavor that makes you feel like you’re getting closer and closer to a heart attack with every slurp. It usually has a pork base, and the starchy noodles soak up all the flavor. I rarely eat ramen and can never finish a bowl, but it usually tastes pretty good after a long night of drinking. philips vacay 085

4. Takoyaki, y’all. Takoyaki is a glorious food. It’s little pieces of octopus, green onion, and maybe ginger surrounded by a little ball of fried batter. It’s covered with katsuoboshi (dried bonito flakes), mayonnaise, and a special sauce. It’s like Japanese comfort food and I want to eat it everyday. The Texas State Fair needs to get on this. NOW!
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5. Pizza. Pizza?, you ask. Yes, pizza. Despite being (maybe) Italian, Japan makes pizza all its own. One of my favorite varieties here is seafood pizza. Standard crust covered with squid, octopus, shrimp, and maybe some scallops is the perfect pie for me! However, for those of you less thrilled by shellfish on your pizza, margherita pizza is pretty easy to find in Japan.

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6. Tonkatsu, or deep fried pork cutlet, is probably my least favorite food ever. I ate it once because I agreed to go to a specialty restaurant a while ago, and I’ve never gone back. This particular one included cheese and miso paste. For someone who isn’t a huge fan of pork to begin with, this greasy slab of pig and cheese was torture. I wanted to die for a good 24 hours afterward. This is definitely not for the weak of stomach. stuffs 020

7. Matcha sweets. Above you can see a picture of matcha dango, but that’s really just the beginning of desserts using Japanese green tea powder. Ice cream, cookies, chocolate, cake…you name it, it probably exists in Japan. Oh! Matcha KitKats! My mouth is watering.

Matcha ice cream is so so good. I don’t even know how to describe it.

Obviously, Japan is a far more exciting culinary experience than one blog post can accurately show, so I hope to post more in the future! I haven’t even told you about school lunch yet…not to mention torisashi!!

See you next time! ^-^

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I live in Japan. Weird.

“This. Is. JAPAN!”

The fact that I actually live in Japan surprises me occasionally. I guess shock and awe is part of the culture adjustment process, but lately I’ve been having so much fun, that I feel like I’m more of an exchange student than a working resident. Granted, I don’t really stay in my town that often, which I suppose isn’t very good for building community, but I feel like I’m experiencing a lot of really awesome Japanese things. Every day is an exciting new adventure.

When I first got here, the difference in smells and sights mixed with my jet lag was insanely overwhelming in a really bad way. I focused a lot on people’s teeth and clothes for a while and developed a pretty bad view of the locals. Then at one point I realized that I live in pretty much the middle of nowhere  and most of these people are old. Also I was tired and hated everything. As time went on, and I picked up more Japanese, learned more about rules and regulations, and got some sleep, I became more comfortable. That’s how it goes, I guess. Nothing special.

At some point I made actual friends, both foreign and Japanese, and my life in Japan just got so much cooler. I met one of my neighbors who happens to speak excellent English. She’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and she has had me over for both お好み焼き (okonomiyaki, savory pancakes filled with whatever) and たこ焼き (tako yaki, fried octopus-filled balls of goodness), two of my most favorite foods! Also, her children are the cutest and I love them. Her mother has invited me to 温泉 (onsen, natural hot springs) a few times, but we haven’t been yet. Still, it’s nice knowing someone is willing to be naked with you.

I also have a wonderful host family, and we hang out about once a month. Their children are also wonderful, and I hate seeing their faces when I have to return to inaka land. Every time I leave them, I can’t wait to see them again. Plus, grandma’s on a hunt for a man for me. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Some of my students give me this warm feeling inside, too. I teach at a special school every once in a while, and by teach I mean we talk about KPOP and play 人生ゲーム (the Game of Life, but in Japanese). One of the girls goes to my junior high for most of the week, and I get to talk to her a lot, even though my Japanese can’t usually keep up. I like her because she tries to understand me and takes the time to explain things to me, unlike other kids who find my Japanese amusing. She also gave me a CD. It’s people like her that make this world, in general, a wonderful place to live. I don’t know why she has to go to the special school, or why she can’t go to class at the junior high, but I don’t care. She’s wonderful, and I’m glad I’ve met such a person, even if she is only 15.

And then there are the friends I can talk to. You know, the ones that are from America (and other English-speaking countries). I know some great people near by, and I’ve been meeting more and more  as I travel beyond this peninsula. It’s actually a bit weird how that works out. We’re all here because we wanted to live in Japan, so we have at least one connecting factor from the start. It’s nice being able to talk to people who understand what it’s like to be in a strange place where you can only sort of speak the language and things like walking and eating are looked down upon. Even though I’m in Japan, which is known for being mostly homogeneous, I’ve met so many really different people from all over the world. Thus, this feels like college, just slightly more grown-up.

I gave this guy my camera so he could take a picture of the group I was with, and this is what he did…

I’m at the point now where I can’t imagine leaving this place. It’s still rough on my body (I’m currently at home sick, probably from exhaustion), but I’m having such a great time. Of course, the longer I stay here, I notice more and more things that don’t make sense to my American self, but I think that happens everywhere, right? I’m not Japanese, so I’m never going to completely understand everything. However,t  this country really is wonderful, and as I travel to different prefectures, I’m becoming more and more aware of that. I’m also super motivated now to get really good at Japanese, if only to be able to talk to the girls that work at Lush. Seriously, that place is too expensive to not know what you’re buying. Well, that’s all for this one. またね!

Even the fish are friendly.